Seven-times former champion and world #2 Roger Federer takes on London hopeful and former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. Federer has publicly stated he is not attempting to catch Nadal at the top of the rankings, but will doubtless want to take the chance to win in front of his home fans again anyway. Meanwhile, for del Potro lifting the title would put him inside the top eight in the Race to London putting his fate in his own hands. But will it be title number eight for Federer or number three for del Potro?
Federer and del Potro have met 23 times so far in their careers in a rivalry that Federer has generally had the better of. Indeed, the Swiss won their first six meetings including in the 2009 Australian Open quarterfinals when he demolished the big Argentine. But del Potro has come away with the win in some of their biggest matches. That includes their most famous match when the Argentinian twice rallied from a set down to win the US Open in 2009 and record his first victory against Federer. They have also twice met in the final in Basel, and both times it was del Potro who came away victorious. He first upset then world #1 Federer in 2012, winning in a final set tiebreak to complete a 6-4 6-7 7-6 victory. He backed that up a year later with a 7-6 2-6 6-4 victory to defend his title.
In their most recent meetings, Federer has generally had the better of it, including winning in Miami earlier this year on his way to the title. He also rallied from a set down in the Shanghai semifinals to defeat del Potro 3-6 6-3 6-3 again en route to the title. But del Potro did manage to best Federer at the US Open in the quarterfinals in a four-set thriller. The Argentine played some of his best tennis and upset Federer 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-4 to make it to the last four (lost to Nadal).
Path to the final
Federer began with a convincing win against Frances Tiafoe. Some had expected the American to trouble him after extending him to five sets at the US Open, but the Swiss was dominant on home turf breaking Tiafoe four times on the way to a 6-1 6-3 win. He backed that up with another crushing victory over the Frenchman Benoit Paire. Federer was again in serene form as he won 6-1 6-3 against a Paire who was never part of the contest. But in the quarterfinals, Federer was made to work by seventh seed Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino surprised the crowd by taking the first set 6-4, but after that Federer was able to reassert himself. He swiftly levelled the match and after fending off break points early in the decider broke himself and completed a 4-6 6-1 6-3 victory.
In what should have been his biggest test of the week against third seed David Goffin Federer was at his brilliant best. The Belgian has had a fine season and is in a strong position to make it to the World Tour Finals but could not lay a glove on Federer. Federer raced through the first set winning it 6-1 and the second was scarcely more competitive as Federer reached the final a 6-1 6-2 winner.
The ‘Tower of Tandil’ opened his Basel campaign against Portugal’s Joao Sousa. Del Potro ultimately came through a convincing winner, despite a loss of concentration in the second set, reaching the second round after a 6-1 4-6 6-1 win. He then defeated French veteran Julien Benneteau 6-4 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals. There he faced Roberto Bautista Agut who he defeated in three sets 6-2 2-6 6-4. In the semifinals, he faced defending champion Marin Cilic. Cilic had been playing well, but it was del Potro who raised his level at the crucial moments. He broke late on in the first set to take the lead and when he broke early in the second he looked to have one foot in the final. Cilic broke back, but then immediately surrendered his own serve again and this time there was no way back for him.
How do they match up?
Both players are equipped with excellent serves and powerful forehands. Federer has perhaps the greater versatility on serve and forehand, whilst del Potro simply lays the hammer down when he needs to. Particularly off the forehand which is amongst the most powerful in the game. However, the key battle may well be between the backhands. Or more specifically, how Federer tries to take advantage of del Potro’s backhand. At the US Open, he tried to break down the Argentine’s backhand and failed which was crucial in costing him the match. It would be a mistake on the part of the Swiss to view the del Potro backhand as a weakness to be exploited. He must be careful to avoid going to del Potro’s backhand too often as it will make his pattern of play predictable and likely allow del Potro to deploy his forehand more often than Federer would like by camping in his backhand corner.
Similarly, it will be interesting to see how Federer’s backhand stands up against the del Potro forehand. Whilst Federer is clearly more comfortable coming over the backhand as a result of his switch to a larger racquet face, it can still cause him problems. He struggled to deal with Mannarino’s relatively flat shots early on, which is a problem likely to be magnified when facing del Potro’s equally flat but considerably more powerful forehand.
Federer has been in sublime form this week and should have enough to defeat del Potro. The Argentinian presents a different challenge to any Federer has faced this week but he looks capable of beating almost anybody this week. Expect him to come through a tough three-set battle to lift his eighth trophy at the St Jakobshalle.
Who do you think will win the title in Basel? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?